On this day in history….28th October 1986

On this day in history : 28th October 1986 – Jeremy Bamber is jailed for life for the White House Farm murders – where he killed five members of his own family….

Bamber shortly after his arrest – Fair use

The Bambers were a wealthy farming family, living at White House Farm, a large Georgian property near to Tolleshunt D’Arcy in Essex…. Jeremy was legally adopted by the family as a baby…. Four years previously they had also adopted a baby girl, Sheila….

White House Farm (in 2007) – Image credit : Glyn Baker CC BY-SA 2.0

After leaving school Bamber’s adoptive father paid for him to travel to Australia and New Zealand…. Here he reputedly became involved in drug smuggling – and also broke into a jewellery shop, stealing two valuable watches….

Once he had returned to the UK and after a few casual jobs, Bamber began to work for the family farm…. However, he was resentful of the low wage – despite living rent free in one of the family’s cottages and having been given a car…. He further showed his lack of appreciation by committing a robbery at the caravan park owned by his family….

Bamber’s adoptive parents Neville and June Bamber – Fair use

Bamber’s adoptive sister, Sheila, had been treated in hospital for schizophrenia…. On the 7th of August 1985 at 3.30am 24-year-old Bamber phoned the police to say his father had phoned him and told him that Sheila had got hold of his gun and had gone berserk with it…. When the police arrived at the house they found her dead, with the gun lay on her chest – along with a Bible…. Her mother lay dead in the same room, her father was found dead in the kitchen and Sheila’s 6-year-old twin boys lay dead in their beds upstairs….

Sheila and her twin boys, Daniel and Caffell (around 1984) – Fair use

At first police believed that Sheila had killed them all before turning the gun on herself…. But when Bamber’s girlfriend came forward and said that he had talked about killing his parents forensic tests were carried out and revealed his fingerprints on the gun…. Bamber had been set to inherit £436,000….

As the guilty verdict was read out at Chelmsford Crown Court Bamber showed little reaction…. Judge Mr. Justice Drake described him as “Warped and evil beyond belief”…. He then handed down five life sentences….

Bamber has always protested his innocence…. In July 2001 an inquiry was launched into the case and it was referred back to the Court of Appeal…. In December 2002 Bamber lost his appeal….

On this day in history….24th October 1983

On this day in history : 24th October 1983 – Dennis Nilsen, a civil servant from North London, goes on trial at the Old Bailey – accused of six murders and two attempted murders….

Mug shot of Nilsen – Full Sutton Prison – Fair use

37-year-old Nilsen had been arrested after human remains were found in a blocked drain at his home in Muswell Hill…. The tenants at the flats had complained to the landlord about the drains smelling – it was a plumber who made the grisly discovery….

Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill – where Nilsen occupied an attic flat – Image credit : Chris Whippet CC BY-SA 2.0

After a search of Nilsen’s flat the remains of three bodies were found; the bones from at least eight others were discovered at his former home in Cricklewood, Northwest London…. Nilsen admitted to further murders, telling police he had killed fifteen or sixteen….

Nilsen would meet his victims in pubs; they were always male – some were homeless, some were homosexual and some were prostitutes…. He would invite them back to his flat for a drink – and would then strangle them using a tie or electrical cable…. He would usually spend the night lying in bed beside the corpse and would invariably have, or attempt to have, sex with it….

He disposed of the bodies in a variety of ways…. He hid them under floorboards, in a wardrobe, in suitcases and even under the sink…. Having spent eleven years in the Army he had learned butchery skills in the Catering Corps…. He cut up many of his victims, burying limbs in the garden – or burning body parts on a bonfire…. He even flushed remains down the toilet….

Fair use

When Nilsen came to trial he pleaded not guilty to all charges, citing diminished responsibility due to a mental defect…. The jury retired on the 3rd of November to deliberate but were unable to reach a unanimous verdict…. The next day the judge agreed to accept a majority verdict and at 4.25pm on the 4th of November a guilty verdict was delivered an all six counts of murder…. Nielsen was sentenced to life in prison and it was ordered that he should not be eligible for parole for 25 years….

During his time in prison Nilsen wrote his autobiography History of the Drowning Man – but this was denied publication…. On the 12th of May 2018 he died of a pulmonary embolism (a blockage in an artery of the lungs)….

On this day in history….10th August 1949

On this day in history : 10th August 1949 – The execution of serial killer John George Haigh – otherwise known as the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’….

John Haigh – Police photograph taken at Horsham Police Station, 1949 – Public domain

Haigh was born into an affluent family in Stamford, Lincolnshire and he was brought up in the village of Oakwood, in the West Riding of Yorkshire…. His parents were members of the Plymouth Brethren, a conservative, non-conformist, evangelical Christian movement….

Academically bright Haigh won several educational scholarships and was fond of classical music…. He often attended concerts and he himself was a talented pianist…. He won a scholarship to Wakefield Cathedral where he became a choirboy…. However, by the time he was 21 things began to manifest as signs of what was to come…. He was dismissed from his job after being accused of stealing from the petty cash box – then in July 1934 he got married….but in the same year was jailed for fraud…. His new wife left him and had their baby daughter adopted; his parents disowned him….

On release from prison in 1936 Haigh moved to London and found employment as a chauffeur to wealthy amusement arcade owner William McSwan…. At the same time he continued to live his fraudulent life, masquerading as William Cato Adamson, a solicitor with offices in London, Guildford and Hastings…. He ‘specialised’ in selling phoney stocks and shares…. However, as academically bright as he may have been, spelling was obviously his Achilles heel…. His scam was uncovered after a schoolboy error was noticed on his ‘official’ solicitor’s letterhead – he had missed the ‘d’ out of Guildford…. He was sentenced to a further four years in prison….

He was released at the beginning of World War Two and immediately resumed his life as a career fraudster – resulting in several more prison sentences…. The problem was that his victims kept reporting him – it eventually dawned on him that they couldn’t if they were dead! He spent the remainder of his latest prison sentence devising the perfect way of getting rid of them….

Haigh became fascinated with the methods used by French murderer Georges-Alexandre Sarret – who dissolved bodies by using sulphuric acid…. Haigh started to experiment using various types of acid on mice…. He discovered it took 30 minutes to dissolve a field mouse – he began to calculate how long it would take and how much acid he would need to dissolve a full grown man….

After being released from prison he took a job in the accounting department of an engineering company…. Then one day he happened to bump into his former employer, William McSwan – who had now become a landlord with tenants in multiple properties, owned by his parents…. He had an extremely lavish lifestyle and Haigh was insanely jealous….

A few months later he arranged to meet McSwan and then lured him to the basement of a warehouse he had rented…. He hit McSwan over the head – and then after putting his body into a 40-gallon drum poured sulphuric acid over him…. When he returned two days later he found the body had turned to a sludge – and so he tipped it down a convenient manhole….

Haigh told McSwan’s parents that their son had gone into hiding to avoid being called up for military service…. He then took over the collecting of rents from the tenants…. When McSwan’s parents became suspicious when their son failed to return at the end of the War Haigh was to lure them to his warehouse basement, where they too met the same fate…. Haigh then sold their possessions for around £8,000 by forging their signatures and moved into Onslow Court Hotel in Kensington…. He kept their car and dog though!

Haigh developed an acute gambling habit and so the money did not last long…. He began to look for his next victims…. He also decided he needed bigger premises, where he could store more drums of acid – and so he rented a larger warehouse on Leopold Road, Crawley, West Sussex….

He then went to view the house of Dr Archibald Henderson and his wife Rose, which was on the property market…. He made up some pretext to get the doctor to visit his warehouse and once there, shot him in the head…. Receiving a call from Haigh to say that her husband was unwell Rose rushed to Leopold Road – where she too was shot…. The bodies of the husband and wife were then dissolved in acid….

Haigh was still living at Onslow Court Hotel and was befriended by a wealthy fellow resident, 69 year old widow Olive Durand – who fancied herself as a bit of an entrepreneurial inventor…. On hearing that Haigh worked for an engineering company she sought his advice on an idea she had for artificial fingernails…. On the 18th of February 1949, feigning interest and a desire to help her, Haigh took her to his warehouse – and murdered her….

Now, Haigh had overlooked one important factor when he rented his new warehouse – it had no convenient manhole…. He had to resort to dumping the sludge from his acid drums on a pile of rubble at the back of the building….

It did not take long for this to be discovered…. 28lbs of body fat, part of a foot and gall stones were found, along with a piece of denture, which was identified as belonging to Olive by her dentist…. Haigh was arrested and taken to Horsham Police Station; he confessed to the six murders – and to three more…. He claimed to have also killed a girl from Eastbourne, a woman from Hammersmith and a man called Max – although no evidence could be found….

Peel House, the former Sussex Police Headquarters at Horsham – where Haigh was held

At his trial Haigh pleaded insanity – even saying that he drank the blood of his victims…. His claim was dismissed…. It took the jury just minutes to find him guilty…. Mr Justice Travers Humphreys passed the death sentence and he was taken to the condemned cell at Wandsworth Prison…. Haigh was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint on the 10th of August 1949….

Haigh in custody – Image credit : Mitch Hell via Flickr

On this day in history….27th September 1888

On this day in history : 27th September 1888 – A letter is received by the Central News Agency, London, signed ‘Jack the Ripper’….so giving the name to one of the most infamous murderers in British history….

The letter was addressed to ‘The Boss, Central News Office, London City’…. It began ‘Dear Boss’ and was signed ‘Yours truly Jack the Ripper’…. The contents of the letter were of a gloating nature – and at first it wasn’t taken seriously, being put down to another crank letter…. Two days later a postcard arrived, signed in the same manner – so both were passed on to the Metropolitan Police….

Although it has been commonly accepted by experts that neither correspondence was from the actual killer the name ‘Jack the Ripper’ stuck…. Previously names such as ‘The Whitechapel Murderer’, ‘Leather Apron’ and ‘Red Fiend’ had been used….

Jack the Ripper was responsible for five murders between the dates of August 31st and November 9th 1888…. All of the victims, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, were prostitutes and all but one had been brutally mutilated…. As well as the five proven cases the Ripper may well have been responsible for a further four murders – and possibly even another two in addition to that….